In the reading from John, Jesus tells the Pharisees about a shepherd protecting and caring for his sheep. He describes how his sheep respond to his call because they recognize his voice. Pharisees don’t get the point of Jesus’ story, so he explains it in very clear terms. Twice, Jesus tells them he is the gate through which they “may have life and have it abundantly.” Twice, he tells them that he is the good shepherd, the one who will lay down his life for his sheep.
In Psalm 119, the psalmist beautifully expresses his longing for a relationship with God.
“I’m homesick, God, for your salvation;
I love it when you show yourself!
Invigorate my soul so I can praise you well,
Use your decrees to put iron in my soul.
And, should I wander off like a lost sheep – seek me!
I’ll recognize the sound of your voice.” (The Message, verses 174 – 176.)
Jesus is the good shepherd, and he did lay down his life for us. He had a choice, and he could have decided to let us pay the price for our sins. But his love for us is so huge that he chose to go through rejection and suffering, to take on our sins, so we could experience a relationship with God and live life abundantly. To Jesus, we are worth the sacrifice. It’s hard to imagine a love so great.
We have a choice, too. Jesus lets us decide whether or not to let him into our lives. On the surface, that choice sounds relatively simple. But that’s not always the case. Some of us have to experience life without Jesus before we’re willing to open our lives to him and ask him to be our Lord. When we do take the chance, it’s worth it.